Holiday Table Inspiration

One of the greatest gifts you can give someone is to invite them into your home to share a meal. (Photo: Mary Carol Garrity)

Holiday Table Inspiration

Centerpieces can be tall or small, depending upon your preference. (Photo: Mary Carol Garrity)

Many of us have fabulous entertaining dining spaces in our homes … that collect dust. It’s time to fix that. This holiday season, and into the new year, resolve to fill your dining room with people you love, gathered together for good food and great conversation.

I firmly believe that one of the greatest gifts you can give someone is to invite them into your home to share a meal. Especially in our hustle-bustle world, where sitting in leisure, savoring good food and drink and connecting with others face-to-face is a rare treat.

When I am a guest in someone’s home, and I walk into their dining room, with a table beautifully set, I feel like a queen, both honored and humbled that my host took time in her busy life to make this evening so special.

Friends have shared with me they would entertain more if they didn’t find it so stressful. Here are my suggestions for making entertaining is a lot less stressful, and a lot more fun …

Simplify. Decide where you can cut corners, then do it. This will reduce the amount of work you have to do, lower your stress level and give you more time to spend with your guests. For me, a big barrier to having dinner parties was the simple fact that I cannot cook. At all. So, for me, simplifying means giving myself permission to never, ever have to cook the meal. I have a short list of restaurants where I can carry out everything from the main course to the dessert. This simple strategy has allowed me to enjoy everything I love about hosting a dinner party without the part I hate.

Practice. Like anything, the more you entertain, the more comfortable you become doing it. You develop your own style and system, the rhythm that is right for you and your guests.

Get inspired. It’s more fun to entertain when you have a reason. For me, it can be the chance to unleash my creativity on decorating the table. I just think it’s fun.

Perspective. If you start to stress or worry, stop and remember why you are having a dinner party in the first place: to spend time with people you care about. The rest is just details. If anything can go wrong at a dinner party, believe me, I’ve probably experienced it. When inevitable hiccups happen, I keep them in perspective and laugh it off. Worst-case scenario, you can order in pizza. Best-case scenario, you have now given your guests one heck of a story to share: “Remember the time you set dinner on fire? That was hilarious!”

By Mary Carol Garrity, Tribune News Service. This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity’s blog at She can be reached at [email protected].